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 Some 176 species of birds have been recorded for Dominica. Fifty-nine of these live on the islands whilst a large percentage migratory. The best known species are the two Amazona parrots, the Sisserou (Amazona imperialis), and the Jaco (Amazona arausiaca) that are found nowhere else in the world. These two parr
ots have been listed on the IUCN’s Red Data Book which identifies those species that are endangered or on the verge of becoming extinct. Another species of interest is the Bule-headed Hummingbird (Cyanophaia bicoler) which exists only on Dominica and Martinique. The very rare Black-capped Petrel (Pterodroma hasistata), locally known as the Diablotin and once thought to be extinct on Dominica, was sighted off the South-east coast of the island in 1984. Dominica’s tallest mountain, Morne Diablotin (4747 ft high) was named after that bird.*


Twelve species of bats, including  one that feeds on fish, make up the native mammalian population. Of these one species(Myotis dominicensis) is endemic. Three other genera ( Monophyllus Ardops and Brachyphylla) are endemic to the Caribbean and exist on the island.This represents the higher diversity in the lesser Antilles. These anim
als play a very important role in the dispersal of seeds, which is so necessary for Dominica’s agricultural based economy. The other wild terrestrial mammals including the Opossum (Diddelpphys marsupialis), the Agouti (Dasyprocia anitillensis) and the wild pig (Sus spp) were introduced into Dominica. The agouti and opossum are widespread throughout the island and are heavily hunted during the open hunting season.

 Nine species of lizards, four snakes and one totoise have been recorded for Dominica. Of the nine lizards the Dominica tree lizard (Anotis oculatus) and the Dominican ground lizard (Ameiva fuscata) are endemic. Three others are endemic subspecies. The Boa constrictor that can grow to a length of more than 10 feet is included among the four species of snakes, which have been recorded on the island. The Iguana (Iguana delicatissima) is a Lesser Antillean endemic that is widespread over most of the island.

Four species of sea turtles can be found in the waters of Dominica. However, only three species regularly nest on the island’s beaches. Given the rapid rate at which development and coastal defense projects are taking place on the coast, the animals’ natural habitat is under serious threat. The meat of the turtle is also a delicacy and is therefore hunted extensively for food.

There are laws in place that are designed to protect turtles. The law specifically outlaws the taking of any turtle during nesting activities on the shore.

 Four Lesser Antillean endemic species of amphibians (the tree frog Eleutherod
actylus martinicensis, Eleutherodactylus amplinympha and Eleutherodactylus johnstonei and the large crapaud or Mountain chicken, Leptodactylus fallax) occur on Dominica. Eleutherodactylus martinicensis is widespread and abundant at low to high elevations. Eleutherodactylus amplinympha is endemic only to Dominica, and lives at high elevations. The Crapaud or Mountain Chicken is widespread although the species is heavily burned for sale on the local market. This species also exists on the British Dependency of Monserrat.

 Although the freshwater fish life of the island is not well studied, some o
f the well-known species include the mountain mullet ( Agonostomu monicola), the striped mullet (Murgilcephalus linaeus), and the freshwater American eel amongst others. These species are caught during the Open Season for fishing, especially in rural areas.

 Eleven species of freshwater shrimps and twenty species of freshwater and terrestial to semi-terrestial crabs have been recorded for the island. Six species of cra
bs are found in or near the seashore; three occur in less saline conditions and six others at low elevations with swamps and mudflats. Two occur in wet areas further inland and three away from surface water. There are no endemic species and most are widely distributed throughout the Caribbean. Three of the larger crabs (Guinotia dentata or Ciriques; Gecarcinus ruricola or Black Crab and Cardisoma guanhumi or Swamp Crab) among the list, are commonly caught for food since the flesh is a delicacy. Shrimps are common in the island’s rivers. These include Atya innocuous, Atya scabra, and Macrobrachium.


Plant Life *
 Dominica has a rich and diverse plant life. It is possible that every major group of plant life is represented on Dominica. These include over one thousand species of flowering plants, and consists of orchids, palms, and other trees, shrubs, vines, bromeliads, sedges, grasses etc. The island also has almost two hundred species of ferns, fungi, mosses etc. A few species are found only on Dominica.

The best-known endemic plant on Dominica is the island’s National Flower Sabina carinalis or “Ewa Kwaib”. This small tree has a limited natural range along parts of Dominica’s west coast. At least  3 other endemic plants(Chromolaena impetiolaris, Chromolaena macrodon, Belseria petiolaris) and 3 new records (Spiranthes adnata, Pteris grandifolia, Elaphoglossum smithi?) have been listed for Dominica. These inhabit mostly the summits of Dominica’s tall mountains, some of which reach up close to five thousand feet.

Dominica’s forests support a wide diversity of plants. Six distinct major vegetation types have been recorded for the island. These include Scrub Woodland;  Rain Forest; Montane Forest, Elfin Woodland; Littoral Woodland; Swamps and Marshes.

Scrub Woodland*
 This is located on the West Coast of Dominica. Conditions are characterized by low rainfall, relatively short trees with prickly stems and thick leathery leaves. The Agave family of plants, as well as 5 species of cactus, do well here. The soils are considered to be poor.

Rain Forest*
 This forest type occurs between 1, 000-1,800 ft altitude, on wel
l drained soils with rainfall ranging from 150 inches to 250 inches a year. The forest is dense with several strata (layers). The dominant species are the Gommier (Dacyodes excelsa), Carapite (Amanoa caribaea), Bois diable (Licania tertatensis) and Chataignier (Sloanea spp.) and they range in height fomr 90 to 110 ft tall. Those forest types are easily encountered whilst traveling in the south central interior and northern Dominica.

Montane Forest*
 Forms a narrow transition zone between the rain forest and the Elfin Woodland. Conditions are characterized by high rainfall in excess of 300 inches and shallow poor soils. The trees are shorter (around 60 feet) and spindly, forming one strata, compared to that which is found in the rain forest. The Rasinier Montagne (Podocarpus cortaceus) can be found here. This forest type is widespread along the central backbone of the island.

Elfin Woodland*
 Occurring from 3,000 ft and over in elevation, this is the highest of the montane vegetation types on Dominica. The conditions are extremely wet, cloudy, and windy. Trees are very short, gnarled and sometimes impenetrable. They are covered with a thick layer of moss and other epiphytes. Most of the woody plants have thick leathery leaves. Clusia venosa, ( Kaklin), with its gnarled contorted stem is the dominant tree species.

Swamp Forest*
 As the term implies, conditions are characterized by a high water table. They may be seasonal occurrences or perennial, with some obstruction to natural drainage. In the freshwater swamp forests of Dominica, a single species of tree Pterocarpus officinalis or “Bwa Mang” dominates the ecosystem. Trees can and do grow to heights of 90 ft. Trees that occur here have developed an elaborate root system ( buttresses and breathing roots), that allows them to survive in these tough conditions. Most of the swamp forests on Dominica can be found at sea level where they form an estuarine system with coastal waters, which serve as a nursery for juvenile fish. This forest type exists in the Portsmouth/Glanvilla/Cabrits area, as well as at Calibishie and Woodfordhill. There are also a few pockets of mangrove wetlands ( Black Mangrove and White Mangrove) in other areas of Dominica. These exist at La Plaine, Salisbury, Temple (Wesley), Woodfordhill, Hamsptead, and anse De Mai among other areas.

Littoral Woodlands*
 These can be found along the Windward or Atlantic side of the island. The heavy, salt-laden winds, which blow from across the Atlantic Ocean have served to fashion the tops of the trees away from the wind. From a distance the trees appear to be well manicured. Few trees are able to withstand such extreme saline conditions.*

The leaves are thick and leathery. The most common trees, which do best under those conditions, are the White cedar (Tabebuia pallida), Galba, (Callophylum calaba), Sea grape (Coccoloba uvifera), Indian Almond (Terminalia cattapa) and the Zicaque or Coco-plum (Chrysobalarrus icaco).

Other Vegetation Types*
 Dominica is a volcanic island. It has been determined that no less than 8 dormant volcanoes can be found on the island and there is a high level of volcanic activity, evidenced by the numerous hot water vents and hot springs that can be found throughout Dominica. These vents (openings) can also be seen beneath the sea. Even under those high  temperatures, very sulphuric and acidic conditions, a certain type of plant community known as Fumarole Vegetation has been able to adapt and survive The Valley of Desolation, en route to the Boiling Lake (the largest boiling lake in the world) and the Soufriere Sulphur Springs are excellent areas to see this particular plant community. It consists mostly of shrubs and sedges.

*Researched and Compiled by Assistant Forest Officer, Ronald Charles. Editorial treatment and additional information, Forest Officer A. James.
All information provided by the Permanent Mission of the Commonwealth of Dominica to the OAS


Updated: 4 April 2008